What’s it about? Haruto is a reclusive shut-in who, unluckily for him, gets reincarnated as the child of a royal family in another world. Unluckily because despite being ridiculously overpowered, his stats seem to indicate otherwise, marking him as a blight to the royal name. Abandoned in a world full of mythical, magical danger, the newborn manages to somehow thrive and survive. Join Haruto, a hella awkward dude, as he finds his potential in a brand new world!
Summer 2023 is, perhaps, one of the leanest seasons since COVID-19 affected everything in 2020. It makes sense ahead of a very robust Fall season: it seems like all of the heavy-hitters will be keeping us warm as the seasons change. That said, I always look forward to seeing what Summer can bring, including what isekai are out there.
Enter Am I Actually the Strongest?, an isekai that seems to be inspired by a bit of everything over the past decade, which…ultimately isn’t to this premiere’s benefit. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s actually talk a bit about the episode itself.
Episode 1, “Starting at Rock Bottom After Reincarnation,” ticks off all the classic tropes: a shut-in who’s been absent from society since middle school, an object (in this case, a phone) that transports him to another world, a busty goddess to greet him, and…oh no, he got reincarnated as a baby. You know that “one fear” meme?
Yeah, that ran through my head immediately, because something about a thirty-year old baby makes me anxious in a genre where that tends to get a bit…sexual.
And yet, Am I Actually the Strongest? kind of defies what could have been a discomforting Mushoku Tensei–esque baby experience by being a bit of a black comedy. Protagonist Haruto is IMMEDIATELY abandoned by his royal parents for only being capable of barrier magic because someone (i.e. the goddess who reincarnated him) messed up. In a world of very rote isekai stories, this actually kind of got me a little invested. It’s not the most creative, but it’s executed well enough that the rest of the premiere actually is pretty okay.
Until that one fear–and then some–came back that is, but…well, we can’t get everything we want, can we? At least it doesn’t turn incredibly sexual…?
Like I said, we can’t get everything we want.
Comedy alone doesn’t make a good isekai, nor do twists and plot: thankfully, Am I Actually the Strongest? is also a pretty nice-looking show with solid voice acting, which helps an otherwise very rote premiere be at least a little engaging. It’s not very revolutionary, but it’s a decent show with B-average animation that’s pretty easy on the eyes. That’s honestly the only thing this show has going for it because I can’t for my life remember a single thing about anyone but Haruto, which says a lot about the setup.
The only fault is some of the jokes which…comedy is always subjective but I just think that reincarnated-as-a-baby (with an adult mind) isekai are never going to be for me. There’s always this sexualized thing about breast milk, not in a “consenting adults” way but a “getting off on someone who thinks they’re just giving you dinner” way, and it’s just weird. That would be like, in my mind, getting horny for…I don’t know, literally any food. While I know it’ll wear off as Haruto ages during the series, it feels like a harbinger of more sexualization later on. Perhaps this won’t come to pass, as Haruto is pretty aware of being a thirty-something in a kid’s body: time will tell.
Like all anime, I know there’s an audience out here for this and for that, I’m glad because this is someone’s something and this probably is making their day. I genuinely mean that too: this could potentially be someone’s gateway anime, and I don’t want to ding someone’s experience just because I personally don’t like a premiere. That said, I’m not expecting much from this series: my only hope is that it doesn’t lean into the weird sexualization that reincarnation isekai seem to favor as of late.
Overall, Am I Actually the Strongest? is strongly average. It’s got a few pieces that could come together into something more but it also feels like a greatest hits of a lot of anime tropes, making for a premiere that feels like it’s going somewhere and nowhere all at once. It’s a tepid premiere that feels simultaneously like it could eventually do something creative but is ultimately such a trudge that I don’t think I have the willpower to stick around.